Wednesday, 26 October 2016

E-book Star Ratings.

It is great whenever your e-books receive 5 and 4 star ratings, but what about the 1 and 2 star ratings?

At first they upset me. How can people be so cruel when you have spent months working on your book?

Now I am more philosophical. What can you think when someone posts a 1 star review based on bad spelling? True. He was an American and, obviously, hadn't read the book right the way through so he didn't know that it was written in English-English. (Nor had he read my bio). Solved that one - changed the title and cover and re-published it. It now gets 4 and 5 star reviews.

Another one star was followed by the word 'Muddled'. That reminded me of a school teacher who, after we had read a classic, asked for our opinions. One pupil responded, 'I thought it was a bit of a muddle.' The teacher gave her a sorrowful look, 'I think that refers to your muddled thinking.'

To give authors 4 and 5 star ratings you have to have 5 individual stars - 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. In other words, stars 1 and 2 are only make-weights!  (Of course some of the 1 and 2 star ratings could be from writers whose books don't sell. A bit of sour grapes!).

As my Mum taught me, 'If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all.'

Thursday, 20 October 2016

Paddy the Pigeon

When making a stop at Carnlough in Northern Ireland (during an excursion from the Oriana), I came across this memorial plaque to Paddy the Pigeon. What had he done to deserve it?

Only won the Dicken Medal for bravery, the equivalent of the Victoria Cross. Paddy had been taken to RAF Hurn in Hampshire (now Bournemouth Airport) in time for the D-Day Normandy landings in June 1944. Two days later he was one of 30 pigeons taken to France by the US 1st Army. He was released at 8.15 a.m. on June 12 carrying coded information about the Allied advance and was home in four hours and 50 minutes. A record-breaking time.

Well done, Paddy. After the war he was returned to Carnlough and his owner and died in 1954, aged 11.

Paddy first gets a mention by me in my article on the Antrim countryside which can be found on

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Why Do You Write About Crime?

This is a question I am often asked. I didn't set out to write about crime. My short stories (many moons ago) were all romance. Then one day a short story grew and grew and became a novel. I am thankful to report that, although I sent to a publisher, it sank without trace.

That book was written when I was living in Mallorca and working as a courier. We were very busy in the summer but not so in the winter which gave me lots of time for writing. All romances.

As well as living in Mallorca, I have also worked on mainland Spain, Italy, San Francisco, lived in Florida (Sarasota and Bradenton with lots of visits to Miami Beach), and I have even worked on cruise ships - hence my love of cruising.

So how did I come to crime writing? We-e-ll, I was writing a romance then the heroine found a body. After that there was no contest. I love the intricacies involved with crime. Working out all of the whys and wherefores and sometimes even surprising myself. It is like working out a vast jigsaw puzzle.

My first successfully completed book in this genre was 'Homicide in Hampshire' which introduces the cockney millionaire Cleo Marjoribanks. Yes, people do ask me if that is her real name - I don't know. Maybe some time she will tell me. To date there are five books about her.

With 'Antiques in the Attic' I took a foray into police procedurals and followed it up with 'Model Murder'. DI Sinclair, DC Chris James, Sarah Stewart and their friends are currently keeping me busy with a third book in the series. Once I can think up a title I will let you know!

All of these books and some 'stand alone' ones are available on Kindle (APP). What I find exciting is checking to see which books have sold where around the world. Yes, I do mean around the world. The UK and Europe, the USA, Canada, Australia and Japan.

Can I ask you all a big favour? Give my books lots of lovely 5* reviews. The more of those I get - such as 50 - the more publicity I get from Amazon.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart for buying my books.

Friday, 16 September 2016

Cosy Crime on Kindle

I have just been checking my book sales on Kindle and found a lovely surprise - lots and lots of people are buying and reading my books. Thank you, everyone.

For those of you who didn't know that I write 'cosy crime' let me tell about my books. There are two 'series'...

The Cleo Marjoribanks Murder Mysteries is set in the New Forest, Hampshire. No, not New Hampshire but Hampshire in southern England. Cleo is a lady of a 'certain' age who is happy in her body, has a sense of humour, decided views on things and lots of money. She won the lottery and bought an almost derelict house which has been renovated as has the gardens. Due to some tragic circumstances - a double murder - she quickly became integrated into village life. And having for most of her life been scared of horses, eventually comes to like them. Not enough to get up on one, but to pet and talk to them.

There are - so far - five books. Most of the action takes place in and around the New Forest and London (where she has a studio flat) but one, 'Ghosts in the Guest House', takes place in southern Spain when she and her gentleman friend, DCI David 'Steaming' Kettle go for a holiday.

The most recent one is 'Trouble in Trewith Green', which is the name of the village where she lives. A few murders and lots of mystery. And, I am glad to report, it is selling like the proverbial hot cakes.

'The South Downs Mystery' series is the second set. These are set in and around England South Downs (near to where I live). These are more serious as they are basically police procedurals - with thanks to Sussex Police (mistakes are my own!). 'Antiques in the Attic' introduced Sarah Stewart to DI Alan Sinclair and it took more than two books for them to get their act together! Sarah is a divorced lady whose former husband dies in mysterious circumstances. After the police have broken the news and left she remembers that her husband had left a few articles in the attic - and discovers a computer and some antique silver. She goes out for lunch to her mother-in-law's and, when she comes home and returns to the attic the silver has disappeared. Lots of twists and turns to reach the answer.

The second book 'Model Murder' also takes place on the South Downs. A well known and beautiful model is murdered and there are lots of possible suspects and about halfway through the story takes a twist that totally changes the police thinking. As one reader said of the ending, 'I totally did not expect that'. Which is how it should be with all mysteries.

I am currently working on the third book in the series but don't yet have a title. As soon as I think of a good one I will let you know. In the meantime, if you haven't read my books, give them a try. From the 5* reviews and comments I do know that people enjoy them.

Happy reading - and thank you for buying my books.

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Sea Defences in Sussex

I don't know who had the bright idea of using tonnes of stones piled up against sea walls as a defence against the sea, but whichever councils approved the idea, should have had their brains checked....

 Due to these 'fields and hills' of stones the disabled and elderly no longer have access to sea and sand. With all the laws on disability access, surely this is against the law?

Whenever the tide recedes it takes stones with it so that gradually the soft sandy beaches (or what was left of them) will eventually no longer exist.

In areas where the tide has reclaimed swathes of stones and is gradually reaching the sea walls, during strong storms stones are now thrown over onto the promenade. A hazard for walkers and joggers if they haven't been cleared away.

One assumes that this method of sea defences was the cheapest available at the time. As it will have to be renewed when the current stones disappear, a false economy.

I haven't visited all seaside resorts in the U.K. so there may be other councils who also used this method.

Sunday, 4 September 2016

Cruising Ireland and Scottish Islands

Just back from a fantastic new P&O cruise on the Oriana (my favourite ship). Leaving Southampton we sailed to Guernsey for a day in St. Peter Port from where some passengers took tours to discover this lovely island. As I have spent much time there I decided to have a restful day.

From there we cruised to Cork in southern Ireland - again, been there and got the T-shirt so I continued to rest. With tours on the following four days I needed to conserve my strength!

In Dublin I did the city tour and a visit to the Castle. From Belfast it was to see the wonderful countryside, up into the hills, down the other side and along the coast. On arrival at Stornoway it was time to take to the tenders to get us ashore - I was on the fabulous tour across Lewis and on into Harris where I treated my Kindle to a new Harris Tweed cover! The fourth day we sailed into Kirkwall (the Orkneys) where we stayed overnight and, no, I didn't go ashore in the evening because I wanted to see the show on board, but I did take a fascinating tour during the day.

Break time and another day at sea. This time to the Isle of Skye where we were again tendered to the dock at Portree from where it was a lovely circular tour of the countryside. The last day we were anchored at Greenock-for-Glasgow. As I have spent much time there I opted for a day of rest.

Once I have my photos sorted out I will do individual blogs for each port and post them on

Why was it so important that I see the on-board show while we were in Kirkwall? The wonderful and ever popular Tom O'Connor was the show. No matter how many times I see/hear him he still makes me laugh - and without swearing or shouting. Thanks, Tom.  

Friday, 8 July 2016

Artistic Endeavours 'By Numbers'.

Cross stitch with
silk, beads and

The advent of colouring books takes me back to my childhood. I loved colouring books and in those days we could let our imaginations run wild - we chose which colours we wanted to use.

Later came painting by numbers and now we have the less messy pencils. I understand that fans of these new magazines find it soothing to sit and colour a picture. Me? I wish I could paint as my late father did but I can't.

My artistic bent is more along the lines of embroidery. Nowadays - and it has been for a very long time - counted cross stitch is the 'fashion'. More doing it by numbers!

The great pity for me is that I love doing 'proper' embroidery using a host of varying stitches. Unfortunately it is very difficult to find pre-printed fabric or even stencils and fabric. The last time I managed to purchase pre-printed fabric - in the early 1990s - the material was dreadful. I think is something that my mother's generation called crush. It was difficult to get the needle through this cheap fabric.

My favourite type
of embroidery

It was also some time in the 1990s that I managed to buy a 'repeater' stencil. (You damp ironed it onto the fabric as many times as you need). Fabric? None to be found so I resorted to a white sheet and made a table cloth and napkins.

I find doing embroidery both restful and a help when I am at the creative stage of writing a novel. Doing two jobs at the same time!

Take up colouring books? No, not possible. I have repetitive stress injuries in my right wrist, elbow and shoulder. Writing? I use a fountain pen - in short spurts.

Table Cloth made from
a sheet.